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Love you with all the lights on

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Buck gets home from work and Taylor is waiting for him.

There’s food set on the table, and she’s smiling warmly, and Buck thinks this is probably the nicest thing she’s ever done for him. She looks absolutely stunning, and she says all the right things as her arms slide around his waist and he holds her close. It should be perfect because this is all he’s ever wanted from her. It should be - but it isn’t.

Because he’s come home from his family to someone who just doesn’t quite fit, no matter how much he wants her to. And god, does he want her to. He wants this to be easy, for once in his life. But it’s like when he had that growth spurt in eighth grade and no matter how much he scrunched up his toes, his shoes just wouldn’t fit. Maybe a few years ago - or even a few months - Taylor would have been everything Buck wanted, but now he holds her in his arms and just doesn’t feel anything.

He knows that isn’t how it’s supposed to be. He remembers Ryan - the first person he ever fell in love with - and the way Buck wanted to be around him all the time. He remembers Abby, and the way just the sound of her voice was enough to set his heart racing.

He thinks about Eddie, and the way Buck can never get enough of him. How he wants to be around him always, even if they’re just sitting in silence after a hard shift. He thinks about the way it feels to touch him, even fleetingly, and how it sets every one of Buck’s nerve endings on fire. He thinks about today - the look on Eddie’s face when Buck said he was transferring, the way his voice sounded when he asked, ”Wait, what?”

The point is, Buck knows what it feels like to be in love with somebody, and he knows that feeling is missing with Taylor. She deserves better than that - than someone who can’t give her their heart because someone else is already holding it. So does Buck.

He feels like a pretty shitty person, breaking up with her right after she’s gone to all of this trouble. But her this is all about you doesn’t do much to erase her previous maybe not everything is about you from echoing around in his head. And Buck knows she meant well, because she almost always does, but it’s just another reason that they’re incompatible.

But Taylor understands, and she leaves Buck with a kiss on the cheek and a ‘keep in touch’. And Buck just feels - fine.

He’s sad, but less about the breakup and more about the loneliness. He’d wanted so much for Taylor to be the one it worked out with, the one who he could finally settle down with and build something that’s likely to last. He’s more frustrated with himself that he couldn’t make it work - that this insanely smart, beautiful woman still left Buck feeling empty.

And he’s spent all his life wondering why people leave him so easily, but now he’s the one who’s walking away. He’s leaving someone who’s sweet, and feisty, and who wants him, and he wishes to any god that’s listening that he could just be different - be less Buck.

Because Maddie and Chim are both gone, and that’s at least half his fault. He all but shoved Taylor out the door, even when she was trying so hard for him. And Eddie, well. He’s in love with his best friend in a way that makes his whole body ache, that makes the inside of his throat feel scratchy and his palms clammy.

It all feels too big to hold inside, yet too much to let the rest of the world see.

It’s just, there is so much living inside of him - fear, and anger, and hurt, all swirling around like a tidal pool. And it’s gonna cause some damage if Buck doesn’t find a way to control it soon, but he has no idea how. He doesn’t know how to take all of these big, ugly parts of himself and fold them into something smaller - something a little easier to carry.

He doesn’t know how to be enough for anyone else, when he can’t even be enough for himself.

Buck’s sitting in front of the spread of food Taylor put out - stabbing his fork into it but not even bothering to eat - when he hears a key turning in the lock. He knows it’s Eddie before the door even opens, because the only other person with a key isn’t even in the state right now.

Eddie takes one look at Buck - at the food in front of him, and the two plates and glasses, and frowns.

“Am I interrupting?”

Buck shakes his head. “No, Taylor just left. We uh - we broke up.”

“Shit, are you okay?” Eddie asks, and he sounds concerned even though Buck knows he doesn’t like Taylor.

“Yeah, I am actually.”

“Good,” Eddie says. “Because we need to talk.”

Buck would laugh at Eddie’s bluntness, but he instantly feels dread pooling in his stomach. He’s heard that phrase so many times before, and it’s never followed by anything good. It’s usually I’m leaving, or this isn’t working out, or it’s not you, it’s me. And he and Eddie aren’t a couple, but he’s sure Eddie could find a way to break up with him anyway.

(He knows it would hurt worse than anything else he’s had to survive.)

But Buck wears his heart on his sleeve, and all over his damn face. So Eddie can see the moment Buck starts to panic, the very second that he begins to catastrophise. He rolls his eyes in a way that says fond, rather than fed up, and he pulls out the kitchen stool and sits down across from Buck.

“What the hell was that today?”

Buck fidgets in his seat. He’s not entirely surprised Eddie is here demanding they have this conversation, because the look on his face earlier just screamed we’re gonna talk about this later. It does ease some of his worry though, because Eddie being mad at him for trying to leave is better than Eddie being mad at him because he wants Buck to leave.

That doesn’t make it any easier for him to talk about it though.

He shrugs his shoulders and Eddie raises his eyebrows at him, almost daring Buck to keep his mouth shut. He knows that look - they both use it on Christopher sometimes. He’s not getting out of answering this one.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make it all about me, I just. I feel like everything is fucked up and it’s all my fault,” Buck admits.

He doesn’t look up from the food he’s still stabbing at - he doesn’t want to see the look on Eddie’s face, whatever it might be. He’s not sure whether frustration or sympathy would bother him more, because he doesn’t want Eddie to feel either of them.

He’s really not trying to make this about himself. It’s just hard when he’s the reason Chim is gone, which means he’s also the reason the team feels off and no one is working with the partners they’re used to. It’s hard when he misses Maddie and Jee, but has no one to talk to about it in case he sounds too selfish.

“It’s not your job to fix everything,” Eddie says. He doesn’t sound mad, so Buck will take that as a win. But he’s still not sure he can look at him in case he doesn’t like what he sees there.

Buck shrugs again. “It is if I’m the one who broke it.”

It’s quiet for a moment, the only sound in the whole apartment is the click of metal against porcelain as Buck pushes his food around his plate. But then he sees Eddie’s hands coming towards him and they both close gently around Buck’s. He stills - afraid to look at Eddie, afraid to move, afraid to breathe.

Eddie squeezes once, then he takes the fork out of Buck’s hand and puts it down. He keeps hold of Buck’s hand with his other, though, and rests them both on the counter in the space between them. Eddie’s hands is lay over the top of Buck’s, holding him steady. Grounding him.

“You didn’t break anything, Buck,” Eddie insists. “Maddie is sick and Chim is hurting, but that’s not your fault.”

And Buck wants to believe him, he does, it’s just. His whole life everything has been his fault; all the people who’ve hurt him, or left, and all the bad things that have happened - they’ve been his own doing. He’s got, like, the opposite of Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to chaos.

“Not everything is-“ Not everything is about you. “-your fault, Buck.”

Buck finally looks at him then, and Eddie’s eyes are so kind that Buck feels like crying. He’s not sure what he did in a past life to earn the kind of gentleness that Eddie affords him, but he’s endlessly grateful for it anyway. For the way Eddie is patient, and understanding, and sees all the parts of him that Buck wishes he could hide away, and just...stays.

Eddie’s keeps staying even when Buck doesn’t deserve it, and for the life of him he can’t figure out why. Buck’s own parents couldn’t even stand to be around him, but this person who’s made up of every good thing in the world, who has the most wonderful son that he trusts Buck with, who has no obligation to Buck at all? He stays.

“I lied to Chim.”

“You did it to protect Maddie.”

“If - if someone had known where Shannon went, would you have wanted them to tell you?”

Buck asks the question hesitantly. He doesn’t bring up Shannon lightly, because he knows that a part of Eddie’s heart will always ache for her. But he really does want to know the answer, because as gentle as Eddie is with him, he’s still always honest - even if it hurts.

An array of emotions cross Eddie’s face, but Buck knows him well enough to know that none are anger. He’s just thinking - carefully, because he wants to be honest in a way that won’t hurt Buck. And Buck kind of hates that he’s someone Eddie feels like he needs to protect, but part of him will always appreciate how considerate Eddie is of his feelings.

“Yeah, of course I would,” Eddie says honestly. Then, “But - but not if it was you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean - if you knew where she was and didn’t tell me, I’d know it was for the right reasons. You do everything for the right reasons.”

Buck can see it on Eddie’s face, hear it in his voice that he’s completely sincere. He’s not saying it to placate Buck or make him feel better about fucking up, he genuinely means it. And that key in the Pandora’s box of Buck’s feelings turns ever so slightly more, threatening to unlock the whole thing and let it all come spilling out.

He bites the inside of his mouth so he doesn’t say anything stupid.

“Listen, Chim was a dick. He was mad, and he was hurt, but that didn’t give him the right to lay a hand on you,” Eddie says, pulling their joined hands a fraction closer to him. “This is not your fault, do you hear me?”

Buck nods, because he figures Eddie won’t let it go until he does.

“And you’re not replaceable, Evan. You can’t just drop a bomb on us like that and expect us to let you get away with it - to let you go.

It’s weird, honestly. Because Buck has never been the person people stay for, and he’s never been the person anyone has wanted to stay either. He’s so used to being left behind, or people letting him walk away without a fight, that he doesn’t think he’s ever had this before.

His heart is beating too fast, and his hand is clammy in Eddie’s, and they want him.

They want Buck to stay just because he’s Buck, because he’s their friend - their family. Because they love him. They love him like only Maddie has ever loved him before: unconditionally. And they don’t love him despite all of his flaws, they love him including them.

Buck feels so overcome with emotion that he has to blink back tears, look away from Eddie so he doesn’t have to see this side of Buck.

“I’m sorry,” Buck says. “I just thought it would have been better.”

“Fuck that,” Eddie scoffs, throwing his free hand up in the air. “Better for who? Because it wouldn’t have been better for you, or Bobby, or Hen. It wouldn’t have been better for me.”

He pulls their hands closer again when he says me, and it makes Buck feel breathless. The intensity of it, the insistence, like Eddie can’t imagine anything worse than Buck transferring somewhere new and leaving him behind.

Fuck, he loves him more than he knows what to do with. There’s not enough space inside of Buck’s chest to hold all the love he has for Eddie, and for Chris too, because that kid is the light of his life.

Buck says, “I don’t know. It was dumb, I guess.”

“You’re damn right it was dumb, and you’re way too smart to be making stupid decisions like that, Buckley.”

That draws a smile from him, because Eddie somehow manages to sound like his Abuela, Bobby, and Athena, all rolled into one. And when Eddie smiles back, it just feels - good.

There’s a lightness to Buck whenever Eddie is around, he becomes easy in a way that he isn’t with anyone else. It’s like everything weighing down on him evaporates, or, more like there’s someone else helping him carry the burden. And it’s not just Buck, either. Because Eddie is more open around Buck too, let’s more of himself be seen than he does with anyone else.

They compliment each other.

(They love each other.)

“Yes sir,” Buck teases.

He salutes Eddie with the hand that isn’t being held, grinning wide in a way that’s almost mocking. Eddie rolls his eyes in return, but his smile is fond and Buck knows it’s just for him - knows there isn’t anyone else who gets to see that version of Eddie, the one that is Buck’s very favourite.

Their hands are clammy where they’re pressed together, and Buck thinks maybe he should let go now. But Eddie doesn’t, so Buck doesn’t either, and they’re holding hands and smiling at each other in the apartment that feels like a home only when Eddie is there to make it one.

“Hey,” Eddie says just to get Buck’s attention, as if he isn’t zeroed in on Eddie at all times, always.

“Yeah?”

“That isn’t a decision you get to make alone anymore,” Eddie says. “We have a kid, you have to talk to me about this kind of thing.”

Buck’s heart stutters in his chest, and whatever he was about to say in reply dies on his tongue. He’d think he misheard if it wasn’t for the way Eddie is looking at him, focused and intense, like he’s making sure Buck heard exactly what he said. As if Buck could ever, in his wildest dream, miss a thing like that.

We have a kid, we have a kid, we have a kid. It’s echoing in his head and throughout his entire body, crackling in his veins and making his heart pound.

“You don’t-“

“I’m serious, Evan. Will or no will, you’re Christopher’s dad,” Eddie says. “You can’t just make a decision like that without talking to me first.”

His voice is firm. He’s squeezing Buck’s hand almost too tight, and his eyes are locked onto Buck’s. Then his whole body softens, just a little, as he says-

“I don’t trust anyone else to have your back.”

Buck’s thoughts flicker back to that moment that feels like lifetimes ago now. The way they’d smiled, and taken each other’s hands, and it had felt like the start of something - something special.

It’s the moment Buck had started to fall in love with Eddie, and nothing has been the same since. Not that Buck would change it, though. No - he wouldn’t change it for anything.

“Eddie, I don’t. I-“ he fumbles over his words, doesn’t know what to say, or how to say it. How to make Eddie understand just how much that means to Buck, how loved, and honoured, and truly happy it makes him.

But then Eddie is standing up, and he doesn’t let go of Buck’s hand as he walks around the counter. Buck swivels on his stool so he’s facing Eddie by the time he reaches him. They’re too close, probably. Buck’s bent knees are brushing against Eddie’s thighs, and their hands are still clasped together, and then Eddie brings his other hand up and rests it on Buck’s shoulder.

His whole body feels alive, and every point that Eddie is touching feels like it’s about to catch fire. Buck has to look up to meet Eddie’s eyes, and their faces are too close as well - Buck can’t help but suck in a breath when he realises. The corner of Eddie’s mouth curves upwards in the hint of a smile, and Buck just wants to kiss it.

Buck feels the burn of Eddie’s thumb as it brushes that point where his shoulder meets his neck. He blinks slowly, unable to believe that this moment is really happening - that Eddie is so close to him, and he’s not pulling away, or running.

He’s stepping closer - he’s staying.

“Evan?”

Buck can’t do anything except hum in reply.

“Can I kiss you?”

The words flood through him like an electric current, and his whole body feels like a live wire. His eyes slip closed involuntarily as he lets out a shaking breath.

“Yes please.”

Eddie tastes like coffee with one sugar and creamer. It makes Buck smile into the kiss, let his legs fall open so Eddie can step in-between them and Buck can pull him closer. He never wants to let go, never wants to stop feeling Eddie’s touch against his skin, and his mouth on Buck’s lips. He doesn’t want the moment to end, and he tangles his hands into Eddie’s t-shirt when he tries to pull away - afraid that if he lets him go, he’ll never get him back.

But Eddie doesn’t move far, just cups Buck’s cheek with his hand and leans their foreheads together. Buck doesn’t have to open his eyes to know that Eddie is smiling, he can just feel it. He can feel it in the way his thumb caresses Buck’s cheek, and the way his other hand is curling around the back of Buck’s neck to keep him close.

He leans forward and kisses Eddie again, right on his smile. Just because he can.

When they pull apart and Buck’s eyes flicker open he brings up a hand to trace the smile lines on Eddie’s cheeks, the crows feet at the side of his eyes, the curve of his mouth. Eddie doesn’t stop smiling the whole time.

“So hey, if you still wanna transfer, let me know and we’ll put in the papers. But you’re not going anywhere without me.”

Eddie’s smiling when he says it, and he’s teasing mostly. But Buck thinks he means it.

“Eddie-“

“I’m gonna choose you, okay? Every damn time. So if you go, I go.”

His heart feels warm in a way it never has done before. Pandora’s box has finally been opened and he feels light, and fizzy, and so overflowing with love that he just might burst from it.

To be chosen by anyone is special, but to be chosen by Eddie feels damn right miraculous. Buck doesn’t think he believes in god, but if he did he would believe Eddie was sent by Him.

“I’m not going to transfer,” Buck promises.

“Thank god, I don’t think Bobby would approve it anyway,” Eddie says. And then Buck laughs, and so does Eddie, and Buck can’t stop himself from winding his arms around Eddie’s waist and pulling him impossibly closer.

It’s the most tender thing in the world when Eddie runs his fingers through Buck’s hair and presses a kiss to his forehead, right over the top of his birthmark.

And he belongs, finally.